maui itinerary

The Valley Isle has so much to offer. This Maui 1 week itinerary is perfect if you are looking for sandy beaches, beautiful viewpoints, moderate hikes, exploring waterfalls, snorkeling, viewing wildlife, great restaurants, and a little shopping.

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Which would you choose: mountains 🏔 or sea🌊 Somewhere between our love for the mountains and waves, a couple years back we came up with a motto that we stay true to to this day. Find yourself in the mountains ∆ Express yourself in the sea❂ I think it’s a great representation of the balance between the two elements. So many people tell me they’re afraid of the ocean, that one bad experience traumatized them for life, but the ocean isn’t all just scary waves and riptides. Once you learn to trust the ocean and relax, you’ll be able to appreciate the sea for all that it is. It’s ever changing. It flows, breathes, moves, & speaks. There are endless ways to express yourself. Honestly, words can’t capture the feeling. When you’re in the ocean, you just ride. You don’t have to surf to feel that. It’s a state of mind where everything is calm, everything is moving, and everything is a dance. Each moment effortlessly flows into the next one. And then suddenly there’s the f*** yeah moment where like you’re like holy crap, I’m swimming in the sea! It’s like the ultimate feeling of confidence and also belonging. You may have to conquer some waves before the ocean will let you relax but when it does, the overwhelming feeling of power is incomparable. Even more powerful, is the feeling that you’ve made it to the outside. You beat the paddle out and maybe a few scary moments underwater, and the ocean has accepted you. And then you’re grateful. For nature, for life, for love, and for the opportunity to live such an expressive existence. TRY THIS: Don’t let one bad day in the ocean scare you away. Next time, you need 2 key factors for success in the sea. 1) Check the surf report (even if you’re not planning on surfing 2) find the right beach. To ease your way into the sea, try to find either a beach with no waves or one that is sheltered. Photo and caption: @gabirobledo_

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I used to visit Maui almost every year as a child, but it has been 14 years since my last visit. I was amazed at how much has stayed the same and the best part for me was that you don’t need 4wd to drive the entire island now. I loved getting to make the drive to Hana a loop and thought driving the northwest corner of Maui from Wailuku to Honolulu Bay was so incredible. both these drives offer amazing views and a diversity of ecosystems.

This one week itinerary will help you see all the best parts of the Garden Isle and still allow you to kick back and chill on Maui’s beautiful beaches.

Day 1: Arrival

More than likely you’ll be arriving in Kahului airport late enough in the day that there won’t be much time for play so today is all about getting organized for your week of fun and orienting yourself with the island.

The airport is pretty small and there is now a trolley that takes you right from the baggage claim over to a huge parking garage with all the car rentals.

Tip 1: If you are traveling with someone else (say, a spouse), you may want to have him/her wait to get your bags while you head over to the car rental desk. Sometimes the lines there can get pretty long and who wants to spend an extra hour of their vacation standing in line waiting for their car.

Tip 2: Get travel insurance, pay for extra coverage or double-check ahead of time what your current insurance covers. If you follow this itinerary you’ll be driving on numerous one-lane roads. I felt that it was worth the peace of mind to know that I was covered in the case of another driver ran into me.

Kahului airport is right next to Costco and I highly recommend making a quick stop there first. If you’re staying in a condo, you’ll want to stock up for the week. If you’re staying in a resort and eating out, it still might be worth going to Costco for snacks to take to the beach, on long drives, or for hiking. Costco also has beach towels, beach chairs, boogie boards, surfboards, and snorkels. There’s also a Whole Foods, Walmart, and Target near the airport if you need to pick up anything else.

Depending on where you’re staying and how much time you have, today might also be worth squeezing in Iao Needle State Monument. It’s only a 24 minute drive from the airport. If you don’t have time today, I put it in the day 3 itinerary.

While there are a few short hiking trails at Iao Needle, most people go just to take a picture of the needle itself. It’s a quick .2 mile hike up 132 steps to the viewpoint and down to the river so you should plan on spending only about 30 minutes here. Note: Parking is paid here however there is street parking just outside the state park entrance.

Day 2: Ka’anapali

With 3 miles of coastline, Ka’anapali is the perfect way to start your Maui vacation. Maybe start your day with a run or a relaxing walk along th sidewalk that runs in front of the resorts. Then set up your beach chair and grab a book to soak up the warm sunshine.

If you want to snorkel or cliff jump, go to Puu Kekaa, also knowns as Black Rock, which is on the north end of Ka’anapali Beach (check out the videos above). You can also grab lunch and do some shopping at Whaler’s Village, an outdoor mall located on Ka’anapali Beach.

For most this might be enough for a day. But if you like to pack in your adventures when you travel, today might be the perfect day to squeeze in an afternoon or evening whale watching tour (Dec-Apr), a sunset dinner cruise, or a luau.

Day 3: Haleakala

If watching the sunrise from Haleakala is on your bucket list, today is a great day to do it before your body completely adjusts to the time change. You definitely want to read our Complete Guide to Haleakala here if you are thinking of adding this experience to your Maui itinerary.

On your way down the mountain, you may enjoy stopping at the popular lavender and botanical farm, Ali’i Kula Lavender.

Makawao

Whether you choose to watch the sunrise and hike Haleakala or not, your next stop is the historic town of Makawao for lunch, get a famous “donut on a stick” at T. Komoda Store & Bakery, or relax at a yoga class.

North Beaches + Paia

Next, head to the world-renowned windsurfing destination, Ho’okipa Beach, where you may also see Hawaiian sea turtles basking on the sand near the lookout cliff. If you’d prefer a scenic beach to relax on, try Baldwin Beach or on a big swell, you can go check out the massive waves at Jaws.

Now it’s time for shopping and dinner in the hippie town of Paia. There are many options for eating in town. We only tried the ice cream at Cafe Des Amis. They had amazing vegan ice cream options. Other popular places to eat include Paia Fish Market, Surfclub Tacos, and the Flatbread Company.

Note: If you didn’t get a chance to see the Iao Needle on the first day, today is a good day for it. You may also have time to squeeze in a quick tour of another historic town, Wailuku, which you drive through on the way to Iao Needle.

Day 4: Kihei, Wailea, and Makena

Beach day! Don’t forget to pack snacks, a hat, and sunscreen. For the first part of the day, you won’t be by any restaurants and you’ll be doing a bit of hiking and snorkeling in the direct sun.

If you’re considering taking a surf lesson, the beaches in Kihei are the perfect place to do it and early morning tends to be the best time to surf.

Kihei Beaches, Napili, Maui

Next, head to the end of Makena Road and hike out to the lighthouse. Along the way, you’ll get great views of a black sand beach, turquoise water, whale’s breeching (Dec-Apr), and you’ll be able to explore the lava fields along La Perouse Bay. I recommend doing this hike early as it can get really hot on the lava and there is no shelter from the sun.

Note: Some people choose to hike all the way out on the King’s Highway to Kanaio Beach but I chose to prioritize other things on this itinerary because the reviews were mixed on whether this stretch of the hike was worth it.

If you love snorkeling, your next stop should be Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. Walk north to the sandy cove then swim to the first rocky point with the house on it and you may get to see some turtles.

Now it’s time to find a gorgeous beach to chill at and play in the water such as Wailua Beach, Polo Beach, Oneuli Beach, or Ulua Beach Park. I like Makena Beach, also known as Big Beach, because it has lifeguards, porta-potties, and the parking is really close to the beach.

Big beach, Kihei, Maui
Makena Beach AKA Big Beach

Two things to note about Makena Beach: Parking is $5, however, there is free parking close by along the main road. Also, the area adjacent to Makena Beach, known as Little Beach, is a nude beach but separated from Big Beach by a wall of lava rocks that you have to climb over.

Depending on which beach you choose to go to near Waimea-Makena, you may need to backtrack a mile or so on Makena Rd towards Wailea to one of the food trucks to grab lunch. There’s also Island Gourmet Markets in The Shops at Wailea that sell fresh food as well as prepared salads, sandwiches and a wide variety of drinks.

Once you’ve had enough of playing on the beach, walk the Wailea Beach path and maybe grab a drink at one of the resort bars along the way. There’s also a nice grassy area to sit at and watch sunset or whales breaching.

Tip: There’s free parking here.

For dinnertime, head to Maui Brewing Co in Kihei for drinks (they have beer as well as wine and ciders), good food, and a lively atmosphere. Kids young and old will love playing games in the outdoor patio and lawn.

Day 5: Loop Maui’s West Side

This stretch of highway between Wailuku to Kapalua has some of the most scenic vistas you’ll ever drive.

The recommended way to drive this road is clockwise, although I drove it the opposite direction and thought it was just fine so I wrote this itinerary going counter-clockwise so as to prioritize the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, which can get very hot and crowded.

Be sure to pack lots of food and water as there won’t be many options along the way until you get to Lahina for dinner.

Here’s a brief overview of the stops to make along the way:

Dinner in Lahaina

So many choices, so little time!

There are many great places to get dinner in Lahaina. The most popular choice is the famous Old Lahaina Luau.

My second choice would be Fleetwoods on Front St. We didn’t actually eat here but the rooftop terrace looked rad and there was live music. If you choose to eat here, don’t forget to make reservations ahead of time.

The Paia Fish Market is also a popular place to eat as is Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Ruths Chris Steakhouse, and Kimo’s.

Our personal favorite of all the eateries in Lahaina is Belle Surf Cafe. You can’t go here for dinner, but it’s an awesome morning or afternoon stop.

If your home base is in Maui is Napili, Ka’anapali, or Lahaina, you should have enough time to take a quick shower and change before heading into Lahaina for dinner. If your home base is in the Kihei/Wailea area, you may want to just bring a change of clothes to go out to dinner since the drive between Lahaina and Kihei can often be slow with traffic.

Another option is to just stop by Kohola Brewery for a drink and then head to your resort/condo and get dinner somewhere else. I loved that Kohola Brewery allows you to bring in your own food so we grabbed some poke and chips from the nearby Foodland to enjoy while playing board games at the brewery.

Be sure to drive down Front Street in Lahina to see the Banyan Tree before leaving Lahaina.

Besides dinner, Lahaina is a great place to shop, admire the art galleries, and watch the sunset.

Day 6: The Road To Hana

I purposely put Hana last because I think the best way to do Hana is by making it a 2-day affair and spending the night in Hana. Since we have a Complete Guide to Driving the Road To Hana, you should click to that when it’s time to plan your Hana itinerary.

If driving out to Hana doesn’t sound appealing, you can hire a guide or pay for a helicopter tour and get the best views of Hana.

Day 7: Flex Day

If you spent the night in Hana, you’ll need this day to complete all the road to Hana stops we mentioned in our Guide to Hana blog.

If you crammed all of Hana into one day then use today to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Valley Isle or use today to fit in one of these fun attractions or excursions:

Where to Stay in Maui

Ka’anapali

  • Aston at The Whaler– Perfect for couples. I like this resort because they are condos, which means you have a kitchen and can prepare your own meals. It’s right on Ka’anapali Beach, and there are tons of restaurants, food, and nightlife within walking distance.
  • The Hyatt– With multiple outdoor pools, a swim-up bar in a cave, and a waterslide, this a perfect resort stay for those who love to play.

Kapalua

  • Ritz Carlton– For luxury accommodations away from the busy resort areas, stay at the famous Ritz and enjoy relaxing at the 3-level pool or the beautiful D.T. Fleming Beach.
  • Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort– With a full kitchen, ocean views, and the picturesque Napili Bay in front, this is perfect for families with 2 kids who like a more serene location.

Wailea

  • Hotel Wailea, Relais and Chateaux– With ocean views, soaking tubs, and plush robes, staying at this adults-only resort in a perfect spot for honeymooners.
  • Four Seasons– With top-notch customer service, 3 pools, a spa and wellness center, this is perfect for those looking to spend a lot of time relaxing at their resort.
  • Grand Wailea– With waterslides and rope swings, this is great for families with kids up to age 12.
  • Residence Inn by Marriot– For a more affordable stay right on the beach in Wailea, these apartment hotels have full kitchens so you can prepare delicious meals yourself

Kihei

  • Kamaole Sands– Affordable 1 bedroom condos in the heart of Kihei
  • Maui Banyan – Affordable 2 bedroom condos in the heart of Kihei